Volunteers help kids go back to school in style
July 27, 2012
Back-to-school shopping for the perfect first-day outfit and a shiny new notebook is a ritual for school children after a long summer of shorts and no shoes. But some kids in the community do not get to look forward to a new pair of shoes and jeans, and if they do not feel comfortable with how they look, it can distract from their learning, according to Rob Harter, executive director of the Christian Center of Park City.
"If kids have a low self-esteem or are embarrassed because they do not have the right clothes, that can be a big distraction for them and makes it so they are focusing on something besides school," Harter said.
In response, the Christian Center has taken part in a Back to School Basics program for the past two years. Started three years ago by Park City resident Trish Alderman, the program allows kids to shop for their own back-to-school clothes at Tanger Outlets.
Each child is given $150 and is accompanied by a volunteer who helps the child pick out new clothes and learn how to budget their money. Harter said that thanks to special discounts given by the Outlet Stores, the money for each child goes quite far.
"We empower them to shop for themselves, teach them about spending money wisely and give them some new outfits that they picked out to start the year with," he said. "Each kid ends up with a few new outfits and a backpack full of school supplies."
Three years ago, Alderman decided she wanted to help a few children in the community purchase new school clothes. She and her friends shopped for eight children. Last year, the Christian Center got involved and with the help of the community, 165 under-privileged children got to shop for new back-to-school clothes. This year, Harter said he asked the Park City School District for the names of 200 children who were in need, they gave him 285.
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"They said there are actually 400 kids in the school district who need this kind of help," Harter said. "We just can’t say no to the kids but it’s hard to raise enough money and get enough volunteers to help all of them."
Harter added they are halfway to raising enough money and having enough volunteers to shop with all 285 children.
The program remains true to its original goal; help bring joy and basic necessities to those kids who need it most.
Alderman was inspired to start the program when she realized how much money she spent on her own kids for summer camps, after-school programs and shopping.
"I realized that $100 could really make a difference in another child’s life," she said. "So I emailed some of my friends and we put together enough to help some kids. People were so enthused about it; the next year we got even more people involved and got organized so we could help even more kids."
Alderman added that volunteers had a great time shopping with children last year, but the people who seemed most impacted were the kids’ parents.
"They didn’t believe acts of generosity and kindness like this could actually happen in real life," she said. "This need to provide for their children is very real to them and sometimes the less fortunate are overlooked in Park City. But these families are working so hard to make ends meet. It’s a very powerful program."
The Christian Center is still looking for volunteers to shop with the children and for donations so all 285 kids can be provided for. To donate or sign up to volunteer, visit http://www.ccofpc.org and click on the Back to School Basics tab.